TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Young women who suffer a particularly deadly condition after a heart attack are 11% more likely to die from it than men, a new study finds.
Not only that, women aged 18 to 55 are less likely to receive the tests and aggressive treatment that men routinely receive, and are more likely to die in the hospital, the researchers added.
“It’s very difficult to understand exactly what’s causing this,” said lead researcher Dr. Saraschandra Vallabhajosyula, a clinical fellow in interventional cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
“A lot is related to unconscious or conscious bias when it comes to women and when it comes to acute cardiac conditions,” he said.
Much of the bias can be traced to doctors, the family or the health care system, Vallabhajosyula said.
Also, women who have heart attacks don’t always have the same symptoms as men, which can result in misdiagnosis, he added.
“They have atypical symptoms, such as belly pain, headaches, things that you don’t typically associate with having a heart attack,” Vallabhajosyula said. That’s why many heart attacks in women are missed.
Women are also more likely to dismiss their symptoms and wait longer before going to the hospital, which makes their condition worse and opens the door for a deadly condition known as cardiogenic shock, he explained.
Cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to keep the patient alive and is a leading cause of death after a heart attack. In fact, it kills about half of those who survived to be admitted to the hospital.
Eliminating these disparities starts by recognizing that they exist. For a long time, doctors have based their understanding of disease on the average middle-aged white man, Vallabhajosyula noted.
“We all know that is not true anymore. All subgroups are prone to different kinds of symptoms, so just recognition of the textbook description of symptoms is not true,” Vallabhajosyula said. “We as physicians or health care professionals have to lay aside any unconscious bias.”